Challenge of Pell’s verdict for Catholic parents
As a Catholic schoolgirl, I can remember one class where two nuns bustled in to illuminate us about life outside of our fairly cocooned and privileged existence.
While we were busy doodling love hearts on our text books and watching the time tick by like treacle, their warning stopped me mid scrawl: you will be challenged on your faith and you will have to learn to stand your ground.
And sure enough the real challenge has now come for me, albeit one that would never have been predicted by those soothsayer sisters, in the form of convicted child sex offender George Pell.
As a mum, how can I reconcile being part of an institution where secret and life-destroying abuse of children was allowed to flourish, the eye so blind to any suggestion of recrimination or justice?
How can I maintain my lifetime belief and comfort that a priest at the altar holding communion is a good and decent man?
As a cadet journalist I was asked by a well intentioned but nonetheless bewildered colleague how I could "sit there and listen to rubbish about Adam and Eve" at Sunday mass but then forensically quiz someone for a story, insisting they stick only to the facts.
I married my Catholic husband in a church designed by my great-great-uncle and in a ceremony conducted by a priest I had known since I was six. My kids have done all the sacraments and attend Catholic schools. Many of my friends are Catholic, the alignment unintentional.
In fact, typing a list like this has put in black and white how much an influence Catholicism has been on my life.
And yes, there are the bits of the faith I have been happy to endorse and ones I rejected such as views on homosexuality and The Pill.
Never eating meat on a Friday for years was an instinct for years, and then I lived in London and routinely ordered a piece of medium rare rump once the end of week deadline had passed. The fatal lightning bolt did not happen.
I will never defend child abusers. I will never defend Pell. I will always have pure sympathy for and fury on behalf of the victims.
I only hope this decision gives victims and families even a small amount of relief and closure.
But like many Catholic mums I know, we are in a real conundrum.
I don't blame people never wanting to set foot in a church again but we still believe in our faith. Sure people will argue that one bad apple does not poison the whole tree. That one paedophile teacher makes all teachers criminals or one corrupt cop renders the whole system rotten. But it seems too trite to say that, given what people have suffered.
But it is true that Pell's betrayal should not tarnish the whole religion. That is akin to claiming a Muslim who commits an act of terrorism in the name of his or her faith does so with the support of all Muslims. That is ludicrous.
Even on Wednesday when Pell lost his appeal, it did not occur to me to ditch my faith. After a lifetime as a Catholic it would be like shredding my DNA.
But when our teenagers come from school and says, "Is it true Pell is a paedophile and attacked two choirboys?" we owe them then truth.
The challenge is maintaining our faith especially when these young faces are sitting puzzled next to us at Christmas mass and I can see them replaying the Pell decision in their minds.
So we must let the justice system deal with Pell and let everyday families continue to practise their faith in peace.